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University of Saskatchewan Leading Research on Smart Cancer Drugs

Drugs work ‘like sniffing dogs.’

Eric Price is leading work in Saskatchewan on developing a new generation of medical imaging technology and “smart” drugs for cancer treatment.

“These new radioactive drugs will be like sniffing dogs,” said Price. “They will be able to select specific cancer cells and kill them, while sparing healthy ones.”

Selective in their targeting of cancer, these new drugs hold promise to reduce side effects compared with traditional chemotherapy, said Price, who has been recruited to the University of Saskatchewan chemistry department.

Price’s research will also be applied to addressing the growing problem of bacterial infections that have become resistant to current drug treatments.


Science Minister Kirsty Duncan (centre) and new U of S researchers Eric Price and Ekaterina Dadachova discuss potential of “smart” drugs to target both cancer and infectious disease during tour of the university’s cyclotron facility.

Price holds a five-year Canada Research Chair awarded for the research of exceptional, emerging researchers. His team includes four PhD students, a post-doctoral fellow, and three undergraduate summer students. There are plans to expand the team in the future.

Price’s work is supported by new radiochemistry labs at the university’s Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences, operated by the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation. He also plans to use the university’s Canadian Light Source  synchrotron for research aimed at finding more effective chelators-molecules that bind to radioactive isotopes and allow for more targeted delivery within the body.   

Price was among U of S research scientists and top administrators who met with Canada’s Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan during a tour of the radiochemistry lab.

Duncan also met new U of S researcher Ekaterina Dadachova, who was recently recruited from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. She holds the Fedoruk Centre for Nuclear Innovation Chair in Radiopharmacy and has been appointed a professor in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition.

New treatments can also fight infectious diseases

Dadachova’s laboratory has pioneered new applications of radioimmunotherapy, a treatment mode which had previously been used exclusively in cancer treatment because of the way it delivers radiation directly to cancer cells. Dadachova’s team was able to successfully apply the therapy to treat experimental fungal, bacterial and HIV infections.

Dadachova is principal investigator on two projects to create novel materials known as radioprotectors, nature-inspired agents that provide internal and external radiation protection for patients undergoing radiation therapy for cancer.

She also brings with her an active research program in using radioimmunotherapy for treatment of cancers, including melanoma. Preparations are already underway to establish animal and human clinical trials to support that work through a pharmaceutical partner and Royal University Hospital.

Cutting-edge Research at Life Sciences Cluster

Dadachova said the university’s life sciences research cluster was one of the main reasons she decided to move her research to the U of S.

 “The unique cluster, that includes the cyclotron and radiopharmaceutical production facilities, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, and Royal University Hospital, is very valuable for translating novel radiopharmaceuticals into animal patients, and eventually into human patients,” she said.

U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad said the appointments of Price and Dadachova underscore the university’s innovative leadership in cutting-edge nuclear medicine and imaging.

“This exciting research builds upon U of S pioneering work in developing the cobalt-60 technology which revolutionized cancer treatment around the world,” Chad said. “Today, 65 years later, our unique imaging facilities are again supporting cutting-edge research.”


(This article originally appeared on the University of Saskatchewan website, and has been republished with permission.)

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